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Draft Stimulus Plan Has Billions for Smart Grid

Jeff St. John: January 15, 2009, 3:04 PM
President-elect Barack Obama promised that his massive stimulus plan would include big money for "smart grid" technologies — and his transition team and House Democrats are keeping the bargain. Details released Thursday of a draft stimulus bill aimed at pumping $825 billion in tax cuts and spending into the flagging economy includes a big chunk — $32 billion — aimed at improving the nation's transmission grid. Of that, $4.5 billion is directed specifically at grants for projects that enable utilities and their customers to track and manage the flow of energy more effectively, curb peak demand, reduce blackouts and integrate renewable energy and storage (including electric...

Big Hoopla Over Climate Change Proposal by Big Business and Environmental Groups

Ucilia Wang: January 15, 2009, 2:45 PM

The climate change policy debate is heating up as nicely as the Earth’s surface temperatures.

The U.S. Climate Action Partnership (USCAP), a consortium of big businesses and environmental groups, on Thursday unveiled its recommendations on what Congress and the new White House should include in a climate change bill. The proposal, which took two years to conceive, outlines what a carbon emissions cap-and-trade system should look like, including targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions over time.

Plenty of special interest groups have offered their takes on what the legislation should include, including one presented by an industry group for electric utilities yesterday. But...

Better Place: So Who Pays for These Charging Stations and Where Will They Go?

Michael Kanellos: January 15, 2009, 11:04 AM
Amid the whirlwind global tour of Better Place CEO Shai Agassi, there's a question that doesn't get as much attention as you think it might. Namely, who is going to pay for these electric charging stations the company wants to erect in Australia, Canada, the U.S. Israel and Denmark? (Apologies for anyone I left out.) The plan to bring them to the Bay Area, for instance, could cost $1 billion. The answer is private equity. "Better Place is working with Macquarie Capital as a trusted financial adviser with recognized infrastructure expertise. Macquarie already is a Better Place partner in Australia and they are committed to helping raise private funds to support the plan to...

Scoop: Solyndra’s Chief Scientist Moves to First Solar

Michael Kanellos: January 15, 2009, 9:05 AM

Markus Beck, the chief scientist at Solyndra, has defected to thin-film solar giant First Solar, according to sources.

The loss of Beck is a major loss for Solyndra, according to solar execs who heard about the switch. As chief scientist, Beck oversaw projects for improving the efficiency and performance of the company’s unusual, cylindrical copper, indium gallium selenide (CIGS) solar cells. His name is on various Solyndra patents.

“Beck was truly the key technical solar guy over there,??? wrote one solar exec.

Both Solyndra and First Solar have not returned calls for comment. Beck, however, has arleady started at First Solar, say sources.

More soon.

Rocky Mountain Institute Spins Off a Car Company: Bright Automotive

Michael Kanellos: January 15, 2009, 8:48 AM
The Rocky Mountain Institute, the think tank that has played a central role in transforming green technology and energy efficiency from a fringe pursuit to a central pillar in industrial and national planning, has spun out a car company. Bright Automotive wants to make plug-in hybrids. The cars will go about 30 miles on a charge and 400 miles or so in all with the help from the gas generator. Overall, the cars will get 100 miles an gallon. The cars will be street and freeway legal. Right now, most of the electric and plug-in cars produced (from companies like Zenn Motors and Miles Automotive) are "limited range, limited speed" vehicles, i.e., they have governors on them that...

Daimler Clarifies Its Deal to Buy Batteries From Tesla

Ucilia Wang: January 15, 2009, 8:37 AM

Is the Tesla Motors deal just an interim solution for Daimler until the Germany car maker can start getting lithium-ion battery packs from its joint venture with Evonik?

That was what it sounded like in a post on Green Car Congress yesterday where Daimler’s spokesman Matthias Brock said this:

"he agreement with Tesla "helps us to bridge the time until the industrialization of lithium-ion batteries within our joint venture with Evonik will be ready," Brock told Green Car Congress.

Brock’s comment cast a different light to the Tesla announcement by CEO Elon Musk, who described the deal more as the beginning of a beautiful relationship. Musk said his San Carlos,...

Boston-Power’s Battery Technology to Boost HP PCs

Eric Lane: January 15, 2009, 3:00 AM
Boston-Power, a Massachusetts advanced battery company, makes lithium-ion batteries that charge faster and last longer than conventional lithium-ion batteries. Last month, Boston-Power announced that Hewlett-Packard (HP) would be its first customer and would offer its Sonata battery as an upgrade option in select HP notebook PCs in early 2009.  (see the greentechmedia piece here and the New York Times article here) Boston-Power owns several U.S. patent applications covering its battery technology, including U.S. Application Pub. Nos. 2008/0008928 (’928 application) and 2008/0008933 (’933 application). Conventional lithium-ion batteries have a cathode (an electrode that...